“I’ve never been able to plan my life. I just lurch from indecision to indecision.” – Alan Rickman
How many of us have the problem mentioned above by Alan Rickman? Indecision… that point where you have one foot in each of two places… the very comfortable place on the top of the fence… that oasis in the gray when everyone wants you in either the black or white. Why is it so hard to decide between the piece of cheesecake or the blueberry pie for dessert? What if I am wrong? Why can’t I make a decision?
Indecision is a huge problem, not only for us in the business world, but for those managing a household, raising kids, or trying to function in a fast-paced world. And, the impact of indecision can be both personal and practical. Let’s look at a few of these impacts:
- Indecision robs us of our peace – When you cannot make a decision about something important, it is difficult to have peace until a decision is made. Indecision tends to be a constant companion during these times of turmoil.
- Indecision delays action – Indecision is really just a matter of procrastinating… putting off until another day what needs to occur today. And, in the process, that lack of action may be causing personal or practical hardships for you or those around you.
- Indecision frustrates those around us – We all know the frustration of waiting in line for someone else to make a decision. We often just want to say, “Just do something…anything, but get going!” Causing others to wait almost always causes irritation that can lead to anger.
- Indecision can actually be a decision that we did not want to make – Failing to decide can actually be a decision. Delayed decisions often require someone else to step in and make the decision. And, when this occurs, we frequently think that gives us a license to criticize the decision.
- Indecision is an indicator of one lacking confidence – An inability to make decisions often has, at its root, a lack of self-confidence. The individual doesn’t want to disappoint someone else, or take a risk, or be wrong. Much of this stems back to a basic fear of rejection. A self-confident person can typically make decisions quickly after available facts are known.
- Indecision can lead to a cycle of indecision – Because an indecisive person is usually lacking in confidence, any negative consequences (even small ones) perpetuates the inability of that person to make a decision the next time. After a few of these, the individual can almost become paralyzed when a decision is needed. This cycle becomes harder to break the longer indecision is allowed to continue.
So, sure, it is easy to name and number the negatives of indecision. But, how can we get ourselves out of this cycle of indecision? Is it possible to become a more decisive person? Well, of course, I think the answer is
maybe yes! We can push ourselves, albeit in a step-by-step fashion, toward becoming more decisive. Here are a few of those steps:
- Eliminate “perfectionist thinking” – Many individuals cannot make a decision because they believe that every decision must be perfect. “Nothing can ever go wrong,” they think. As a result, they delay making a decision believing that unless they can be 100% certain the decision is correct. This “perfectionist thinking” can prevent some individuals from making even the easiest decisions. By accepting that there is room for error and that the benefit might outweigh the risks, this stranglehold might lessen. Read on….
- Realize that no decision (or one that is delayed) is often the wrong decision – We have all heard that no decision is, in fact, a decision. When posed with an opportunity to accept a new job, no decision will eventually disqualify you from even having a decision to make. Opportunities and situations often dissipate if the decision is delayed long enough. In fact, this is what many hope will occur. A decision delayed is a potential mistake avoided. This thinking is wrong. Very few good things in life ever come because we fail to be decisive. And, many wrong decisions are made for us when we delay or avoid them.
- Understand the risks of both a bad decision and a delayed decision – Everything we do has risks. We simply cannot avoid them. By realizing the risks of a decision (or, the pros versus the cons), we can often generate data that can take some of the subjectivity out of a decision. So, when faced with a challenging decision, consider the risks of each, quantify them (if possible), and help yourself see how a proactive, intentional decision can often do more good than harm, even when the decision is imperfect.
- Consider whether more time or more information will allow for an easier decision – A technique I often use when faced with a challenging decision is this… Is there any information that, if I gather it, will make this decision easier? If I wait to make this decision, will it become easier or harder? We often delay making a decision for no reason at all. I frequently see individuals with 75% of the required information delay making a decision because they want to get to 80%. That extra 5% requires time, energy and effort that does not truly increase the likelihood of a positive decision. Sometimes, you just need to decide based on what you have.
- Confidently assume the role of decision-maker when needed – We often don’t make decisions because we secretly hope someone else will assume the responsibility. The fact is, some decisions cannot be made by anyone else! When you realize that only you can make the decision, you just need to step us, assume the role, and make the call.
- Realize that most wrong decisions are either not so bad or they can be fixed – In reality, most decisions are not so critical that the impact of a wrong decision is either overwhelming or irreversible. Often, we wait to make a decision when we could have made a wrong decision and quickly fixed it before the decision was actually made. When the impact is minor or reversible, go forward with confidence and believe that things will be better either way.
Becoming a more confident decision-maker is really all about becoming a more confident person. When you realize that there are times when you simply must “go for it”, you start a new cycle of decisiveness. Once you gain experience making decisions, and, sometimes wrong ones, you learn that the cost of delays, in both personal and practical terms, is too much to be anything less than decisive.
So, consider today how you can become a more decisive person. Determine that we all must take risks and a considered decision is almost always better than either a delayed one or one never made at all. Don’t be like Jimmy Buffett who said, “Indecision may or may not be my problem.”
Have a terrific day!